Baseball Magazine

Perfect Hitting Speed

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

At any level of baseball, there is going to be a pitching speed that most of the hitters at that level are comfortable hitting.  It's that speed that is not too fast and not too slow - the Perfect Hitting Speed (PHS).  Your game-plan as a pitcher depends largely on knowing where you are on the following spectrum.  



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- Below

If a pitcher's fast ball velocity falls within the red PHS zone, he'd better have great command in the strike zone with his fastball - low and consistently on the outer thirds of the plate - and/or have great movement.  A pitcher who has velocity above the PHS for his level does not have to be so fine with his pitches because his strong velocity will overcome poor location or lack of movement.  The same thing goes for pitchers who are below PHS.  Many hitters say that they would rather hit a guy who throws above PHS than to face a guy who is below PHS.  A "Below" pitcher has to learn how to pitch but he can still be very effective if he knows what he is doing.  I know!  I had about 20 career at-bats off Tim Wakefield in the minor leagues and don't think I ever hit the ball past the mound!

All this should be very instructive to young pitchers.  A pitcher who is towards the bottom end of PHS would be better off easing off a bit to get into the "Below" PHS area that hitters complain about.  Sometimes, just having a good change-up or slower breaking pitch gets more of their pitches in this zone.  The key is to make sure you take advantage of multiple zones by changing speeds.  Unfortunately, most young pitchers do not pitch to their strengths and suffer from trying to satisfy their ego by humping up to throw harder.  Doing this usually puts them more squarely in the red zone with all of their pitches.  With all the emphasis on fast. faster, fastest, it becomes very hard to convince a pitcher to back off at times and think slow and slower.
One thing that pitchers in the "Above" zone need to understand is that when they move on to college, the zone shift upwards.  For many years, they counted on the fact that they were in the "Above" zone and didn't have to be too concerned about learning how to pitch.  Why pitch when I can just throw it past every high school batter?  The first few innings at the college level usually become a big wake-up call for these pitchers because now their velocity falls within the college PHS.  They better quickly learn how to pitch or develop some better command and movement.  Of course, the same thing goes for a college hard thrower that moves into pro ball.
Good pitching starts by looking inward and honestly evaluating yourself and then developing a plan of action to maximize your abilities.  Understanding how PHS works is a big part of that development.

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